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The Daily Tar Heel

Diffcult to escape pretension in college

In the first few minutes before class yesterday, I overheard a conversation between two classmates. From what I could gather, they were talking about a play or a book.

The conversation was about the depth of a character or something like that. Then I heard the following sentence: “I have a distinct curiosity about humanity.”

I lurched in my seat. “I have a distinct curiosity about humanity”!?

I turned around slowly to make sure he wasn’t reading a sentence from an English essay he BS’ed his way through in 10th grade. He wasn’t. Maybe this was some sort of horrible attempt at humor. However, no one was laughing — especially me.

What does that even mean — distinct curiosity about humanity? Maybe I’m not the right caliber of student, but I had no idea. I don’t think the guy in my class did either. This statement was a manifestation of a serious epidemic that has been spreading around campus lately: tightass-itis.

If you’ve heard a similar snobbish remark in one of your classes, on the way to class, or in the dining hall, you may be a victim of tightass-itis.

The long-term repercussions of continued exposure to tightass-itis have not been studied much, but from my limited experience and medical background, I know this is a dangerous disease that we need to confront head-on. A friend of mine at an Ivy League school up north could not escape the repeated tightass-itis of his friends. Today, he only speaks in metaphors and Shakespeare quotes.

I’m worried for the welfare of the entire student body.

Look, we’re still college students. While it’s great to be ridiculously smart, is it really worth it if everyone thinks you’re a pretentious ass?

College is as much about learning things as it is about learning how to communicate and operate in the real world. There’s a time and a place for everything.

Now before the tightass-itis community attacks me, I’m not advocating that we dumb ourselves down to make everyone more comfortable. I’m advocating balance. It’s great to hear about the 30-page thesis paper you just wrote, but maybe not at the expense of talking about our chance of winning the ACC tournament.

While there are no FDA-approved treatments for tightass-itis today, I have heard that there are several lifestyle changes those afflicted with this disease can make. For starters, laughing at people when they do stupid things. Browsing and are also good remedies.

One of the things that we take pride in and put an emphasis on here at Carolina is being well-rounded. We should be able to confidently talk about humanity and peoples’ varying levels of interest in it, and also talk about how hot your professor is.

I actually think it’s easier to become a school that talks about how interesting humanity is all the time. That description includes 94 percent of students at Duke.

It’s much harder to strike a balance between having a school life and a life outside of school. So please, make sure to laugh sometime today: at yourself, a friend or a funny YouTube video.

David Bierer is a junior business major from Charlotte.
E-mail him at

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